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COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the wolverine Gulo gulo in Canada

Existing Protection or Other Status

In Canada, wolverines are harvested in all western jurisdictions. There is no non-Aboriginal harvest in Quebec, Labrador or Ontario (since 2001/02; Dawson, pers. com., 2002). The wolverine is listed as endangered in Newfoundland-Labrador, where it is protected under the province’s endangered species act. In the United States, wolverine harvest is permitted only in Alaska and Montana.

Harvests are managed using variation in season length (including closed seasons), quotas, the use of registered trapping concessions (a form of limited entry), and trapline management by the trapper (Slough et al. 1987). Harvests are monitored through mandatory pelt sealing, year-end harvest reporting, or by monitoring fur exports. Local use of wolverine pelts is common in northern areas (especially the Northwest Territories and Nunavut), where pelt production data (Table 1) underestimate the actual harvest. Community or land claim area-based harvest studies and carcass collection programs have greatly improved wolverine harvest reporting since the 1990s.

Registered trapping concessions are effective in limiting the number of trappers who harvest from any given area, and also provide an incentive for long-term trapline management by the trapper (i.e., overharvest is discouraged). A weaker trapping system is employed in group trapping areas, where members of some northern Aboriginal communities in the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut have unlimited rights to hunt and trap within large traditional territories near their communities. There is less incentive to manage these areas, as individual trappers have little control over the total harvest.

Wolverines are not listed by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species; therefore international trade in wolverines is not monitored or restricted.

The provincial / territorial status rankings for wolverines are given in Table 2. Most rankings are similar to the COSEWIC (COSEWIC 2002) rankings for the eastern and western populations (endangered and special concern, respectively).

Internationally, wolverines are listed as endangered in Norway, Sweden and Finland. Wolverines are ranked vulnerable worldwide (IUCN status – vulnerable, VU – A2c; Hilton-Taylor 2000), facing a high risk of extinction in the wild in the medium-term future due to population declines.

The U.S. Forest Service designated the wolverine a sensitive species in 1993, granting it special consideration during management planning efforts. A petition was filed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the wolverine as a threatened or endangered species, but was subsequently denied in 1995. Another such petition was filed in 2000 (Biodiversity Legal Foundation 2000), citing low numbers and fragmented populations as reasons. State listings for wolverines are threatened (Oregon and California) endangered (Colorado) protected wildlife (Washington), species of special concern (Idaho and Wyoming). There are no state listings for Alaska and Montana where the species is trapped. The trapping season for wolverines was closed in Idaho in 1965, and in 1975, a bag limit of one per trapper was implemented in Montana, where there is an annual harvest of approximately 12 individuals.

Table 2: Status of Wolverine in Canada
JurisdictionStatus ProvincialSub-nationalCommentGlobalCOSEWIC
NLEndangeredS1Critically imperilled E (1989)
QCNot rankedS1Critically imperilledG4E (1989)
ONThreatenedS2ImperilledG4SC (1989)
MB S3S4Vulnerable/apparently secureG4; G4T4, luscus ssp.SC (1989)
SKSensitiveS3S4Data deficientG4SC (1989)
ABBlue May be at risk; data deficient status has been recommended SC (1989)
BC, luscus ssp.BlueS3VulnerableG4T4SC (1989)
BC, vancouverensis ssp.RedS1Critically imperilledG4T1QNot addressed
YTYellowS3Vulnerable SC (1989)
NTSecure   SC (1989)
NUSensitive   SC (1989)

Sources:

NL (Bredin, pers. com., 2002).
QC (Québec Société de la Faune et des Parcs, Espèces Fauniques Menacées ou vulnérables au Québec, web site: http://www.fapaq.gouv.qc.ca/fr/etu_rec/esp_mena_vuln/esp/carcajou.htm [accessed May 2003].
ON (Threatened status recommended by Dawson 2000) (Ontario Natural Heritage Information Centre, web site: http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/MNR/nhic/species/listout.cfm?el=am [accessed May 2003].
MB (Berezanski, pers. com., 2002; Manitoba CDC, web site: http://web2.gov.mb.ca/conservation/cdc/species/species.php?search_type=animal&search_text=wolverine&action=Submit&action=Submit [accessed May 2003].
SK (Saskatchewan CDC, Keith, pers. com., 2002).
AB (Petersen 1997, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development 2000, Kosinski, pers. com., 2002).
BC (Cannings et al. 1999).
YT (Yukon Department of Renewable Resources 2000).
NT (Northwest Territories Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development 2000).
NU (Krizan, pers. com., 2002).
COSEWIC (COSEWIC 2002).